The final post in a series of four about the types of people whose approach to sales may appear to work, but will probably cost them sooner or later.
If you identify with any of these, read up, and plan accordingly.
So far we’ve looked at:
- the order takers who have customers flocking to them
- the locally well networked who aren’t short of opportunities
- the more experienced
- the less experienced
- the givers
- the takers
Here’s the last two:
No one likes a smart alec. Why then do so many professional service consultants act like the smart-alec?
Often smart people know they’re smart. (I’ve written about this here). But to believe you are smarter than your client isn’t smart at all. At least in relation to your client’s business, challenges, goals and so on. They are smart about those, and you are the empty vessel at the start. Your only job at this stage is to become smarter about what they think, feel and know. Learn. Be curious. Question intelligently. Hypothesise, probe and suggest questions that they should be asking themselves.
But don’t be a smart Alec who tries to show off their expertise by bragging, boasting, pitching, over educating or acting cocksure that you have the answers to their problems and are ‘confident that you can help them’ (ever heard that line?) until you have respectfully met them where they are at first, emotionally and intellectually. Then, you can begin to lead them through their potential options and solutions, for further discussion. That’s smart if you want to develop business and maximise value to your clients.
Those who lead with one distinct personality (perhaps it’s just a part of their strong self-identity) will succeed when there’s a match between them and their client. But if there’s no match, they may struggle and blame their failure on another external factor. I’ve seen this happen so often and it’s seriously short-sighted and costly of them to think like this. And it just doesn’t look good.
I’ve said before, that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. You aren’t good at sales because you just made a sale. You’re good at sales when you consistently make sales and create value out of thin air.
Two common such personality types are the more dominant types, and the more affable types.
Dominant types can be direct and efficient. But they can easily appear self-serving and pushy.
If you’re more dominant and working with a client who’s overly sensitive to that, you could consider toning it down, and working hard to help empower them to make their decision in the right conditions for them. Ultimately, help them buy how they want to buy rather than how you want to sell.
The more affable types are often at the other end of the dominant spectrum. So much so that they daren’t tell or even ask you to progress your business decision!
They often believe it’s about the relationship and being liked. “Build it and they will come”, they chant in their sleep. And they are asleep. These people have many ‘friends’ out there, have lots of client coffees and lunches, but also often have plenty of stagnant opportunities in their pipeline, suffer from ‘pipeline bloat’ and don’t often drive decisions forwards (or make it easy for their clients to do so) and don’t often close either. Then, 6 months later, they change job.
The more affable types must challenge themselves to get real and acknowledge that ultimately the client is there for value, not just to ‘like’ you as a person. They have to ‘like’ the value they see from you, and that value requires that you are there to help them think and talk business, and make the right decisions for their business and career.
This is about pushing back on clients, disagreeing where appropriate and where that’s valuable, and showing them that whilst you’re a decent trustworthy person, that you also respect their time and their challenges and that your expertise is important to help guide them to the right decision. Be bold, and find a way to move their decisions forward, rather than just the relationship. Do that and the relationship will grow and they will respect you as a professional.
Don’t fall into the trap of just nodding and saying, “yes, I know, to sell you have to adapt”. I hear people say that all the time. But they don’t do it. It can be tough to go against your natural style and stop doing certain things and start doing others, especially in the moment under pressure. But that’s when your buyer is ultra-alert and sensitive to how you are making them feel. So adapt, you must!
And get some training. Because when you’re not training, your competition probably is….